Today I followed a link provided by David Gaughran to a website run by Bowker (the exclusive provider of ISBN numbers in the U.S.). The site purports to be informational for folks looking to self-publish. The trouble is, their recommended service includes Author Solutions. ETA: It used to be listed as the first option, but has oddly enough been moved down the list.
If you’re not sure why that’s a bad thing, check out the Writer Beware blog for years’ worth of background.
The rest of the site is also filled with misinformation that does, indeed, make self-publishing sound so immense, costly and daunting, it’s small wonder inexperienced writers, or writers who haven’t researched much, would see it as a relief to have companies like Bowker and Author Solutions on their side.
What’s interesting is that this news–this seeming support of self-publishing from Bowker–comes on the heels of big (yet oddly quiet) news from the distribution sector of the publishing world. Book distribution company Baker & Taylor changed its policies, permitting self-published titles to appear alongside of, and be sold at the same terms as, titles published by the “Big Publishers.”
So why did this happen now?
I think it’s tempting to assume it’s because self-publishers and small presses are seeing greater possibilities for success than ever before. But I’ve a cynical bent, you see.
I believe these two major shifts happened because, as is outlined here, the large publishers who work with Bowker and Baker & Taylor now have their own “self-publishing” divisions which are–what a coincidence!–mostly supported by Author Solutions. While the main source of income for Author Solutions has been authors purchasing services rather than readers purchasing books, I’ve no doubt “Big Publishers” wanted a better chance of making money off bookselling as well.
That doesn’t mean small press and self-publishers can’t take advantage of the opportunities.